Bidding for victory

By The Drum, Administrator

February 23, 2005 | 26 min read

In a blatant attempt to encourage interaction with Adline, while jumping on the dumbing-down bandwagon (what do you mean we hitched a ride years ago?), we thought we’d add a touch of ‘reality show’ finesse to the current bidding war for the vacant Manchester FM radio licence.

As you may well have heard, 19 bidders laid bare their ambitions to Ofcom on the 9 February, all hoping to scoop the ultimate prize and get their voices heard, their target markets happy and their sales teams very busy come decision-time in May/June. Of these 19 we’ve allowed a coterie of some of the most interesting who auditioned into our virtual ‘house’ (you can see where we’re going here) to make their case to you, the wonderful Adline audience. It’s now up to you to cast a watchful pair of eyes over them and decide who’s going to be up to no good, who’s spoiling the game for the rest of the players and who you think deserves to walk off with the ticket to a lucrative new life.

We don’t have a premium rate phone line, we’re not going to fleece you via texting and we’ll leave it up to the bidders to co-ordinate their own battle buses. What we do have is a website where we want you good folks to click along to and register who you think should be Manchester’s next radio star. After you’ve read the following sales pitches log on to and make sure you make sure that your voice is heard. The results of the online vote will be published in the April edition of Adline, at which point Ofcom will be made aware of the feelings of the media and marketing community. So choose wisely people. The bidder’s fates are in your hands.

Virgin Classic Rock

Please name the individuals leading the bid

Andrew Flanagan, Jason Bryant, David Andrews.

What experience do they bring to the campaign?

Andrew is chief executive of Virgin Classic Rock’s parent company SMG plc, and brings heavyweight financial and media expertise to our bid.

Jason is development director at Virgin Radio, a former managing director at talkSPORT, and has run national and local stations. He knows the North West well, having been to university in Manchester and as the largest shareholder in Chester’s number one commercial radio station, Dee 106.3.

David is a marketing guru and used to run Manchester-based Century 105.4. He will ensure that the marketing, awareness and positioning of the station is maximised.

What will your bid offer to listeners that competing bids, and existing stations, can’t?

Quite simply, the Virgin Classic Rock brand, mixed with the most amazing rock songs of all time. It is difficult for new stations to make an impact in crowded markets like Manchester, and other rock brands, such as The Arrow, have struggled to make headway because nobody knows what they are. The power of our brand has been highlighted by its stunning debut listening figures, on its local digital station in London.

No existing station is currently playing rock in Manchester, which is a disgrace given the city’s rock credentials. We will fill this gaping hole in the city’s radio provision. We also offer a 24-hour news and listings service just for Manchester, locally made programming 24/7 and the opportunity for local rock bands to play on the city’s rock station.

What will your bid offer to advertisers that competing bids, and existing stations, can’t?

One of the few radio brands with which advertisers want to be associated. Virgin Classic Rock is much more than just another radio station; we offer a culture that matches Manchester’s vibrant lifestyle.

Give examples of the proposed station playlist or programme content

Led Zeppelin, Oasis, U2, Bruce Springsteen, The Who, The Rolling Stones, Thin Lizzy, Pink Floyd, Aerosmith, The Stone Rose, The Fall.

Why should Adline readers vote for your bid?

Just listen in at and find out what Manchester would be missing out on if you don’t.


Individuals leading the bid and the experience they bring to the campaign

The allTALK FM application has been chaired by John Stalker since Autumn 2004, on behalf of Wireless Group plc. The group owns national speech station talkSPORT as well as 16 other local stations across the UK, and recently won the new FM radio licence in Edinburgh with a speech only proposition, Dunedin FM.

John Stalker is former deputy chief constable of Greater Manchester police and who, since leaving the force 15 years ago, has been employed fulltime in the media as a newspaper journalist, radio and TV pundit and presenter. In addition, experienced radio executive Matthew Levington, is a non-executive director of the bid, and has been instrumental in helping to develop local understanding and support for the allTALK FM proposition.

What will your bid offer to listeners that competing bids and existing stations cannot?

As demonstrated throughout our application, allTALK FM with its speech only format will radically broaden both advertiser and listener choice, a prerequisite of any licence award. allTALK FM, while offering something for everybody some of the time, will attract a core 40+ adult audience to the station, and, therefore, bring advertisers a new audience to commercial radio. As our research shows, because the allTALK FM speech only proposition is so different from the existing music-led stations, it will not cannibalise existing audiences but is more likely to take audience from BBC stations, thereby increasing impacts into the commercial sector which must be compelling for advertisers. Speech is the most listened to format in UK radio yet remains virtually untouched by the commercial sector, with most listening going to BBC. allTALK FM will challenge this monopoly.

Give examples of the proposed station playlist or programme content

Good Morning Manchester: news, sports and current affairs with comment, debate and plenty of humour. Nine ‘til Noon: classic talkback radio show with lively debate on the phones on the issue that are affecting Manchester. The Afternoon Blast: magazine-style entertainment show, which includes an extended lunchtime news bulletin. M60: the drivetime show, with news features, fun and chat for the drive home. Frequent news, traffic and travel and weather bulletins. City Life: evening show with broad entertainment appeal, comprehensive What’s On guide and review. Manchester Nights: lively and challenging talkback radio with a hard-hitting host.

Why should Adline readers vote for our bid?

Adline readers have a vested interest in creating a buoyant and healthy commercial radio sector in Manchester, and one that can challenge the BBC. The allTALK FM speech proposition brings a new audience and a new and exciting vision to the commercial radio sector in Manchester. Finally, it is well documented that advertising within speech content leads to higher levels of recall, and therefore, more effective and better value radio advertising for advertisers.

Saga Radio

Please name the individuals leading the bid

The board consists of Tim Bull (chairman), Ron Coles (director of Saga Radio), Harry Dunne (Saga Radio Group sales director), Russell Craig (head of communications at Manchester Airport), Sandra Chalmers (broadcaster and media consultant) and Stuart Howard (Saga Group company secretary).

What experience do they bring to the campaign?

Saga Group is market leader in providing services for people aged 50 and over. Saga Radio operates three FM radio stations. They are based in the West Midlands (Birmingham), the East Midlands (Nottingham) and Glasgow. Saga Radio has a highly-experienced management team led by Ron Coles, one of commercial radio’s most experienced operators who has clocked up 37 years in the radio industry.

What will your bid offer to listeners that competing bids, and existing stations, can’t?

Saga Radio (Manchester) Ltd will extend listener choice by providing a radio station for listeners aged 50 and over, the age group least well served by existing stations in the market.

What will your bid offer to advertisers that competing bids, and existing stations, can’t?

Saga Radio will offer advertisers access to the demographic group which is growing faster than any other, has the most disposable income, and controls 80 per cent of the country’s wealth.

Give examples of the proposed station playlist or programme content

Saga Radio plays melodic, familiar music from the last six decades and today. Music “from Frank to Hank and Bing to Sting”. You will hear Norah Jones, Westlife, Tina Turner, Dean Martin, Perry Como, Tommy Steele and the Ink Spots on Saga 97.7fm. The music will be mixed with news, current affairs and lifestyle-oriented speech.

Why should Adline readers vote for your bid?

The proposed service will bring new listeners and new revenue to commercial radio and offer advertisers the opportunity to reach the demographic group with the most disposable income, and the time and inclination to spend it.


Please name the individuals leading the bid

Graham Bryce

What experience do they bring to the campaign?

Graham has been managing director of Xfm since 2000, and has been responsible for the transformation of Xfm into the leading alternative music brand in the UK. During the past four years Xfm’s audience in London, and nationally on digital, has grown to record levels, and the revenue of the London station has more than doubled.

What will your bid offer to listeners that competing bids, and existing stations, can’t?

Manchester is the home of alternative music in the UK. With the Xfm Manchester bid, “Music’s coming home!” We believe that Xfm has an unparalleled track record in breaking new acts and playing the best in original, alternative music, and our research shows that this is what Manchester wants.

Our research shows that, in particular, men aged 15 to 34 were underserved by commercial radio in the Manchester area. Our focus group work showed that although some of Radio 1’s specialist programming was viewed positively, commercial radio offerings in general left respondents feeling disenfranchised.

What will your bid offer to advertisers that competing bids, and existing stations, can’t?

By providing a strong alternative music proposition for the underserved 15- to 34-year-old market in the Manchester area, Xfm will provide advertisers with a more efficient means of reaching this highly lucrative and attractive audience than is currently available. Our research confirms that the proposed Xfm Manchester programming format and style will attract a younger, more upmarket audience. Our experience in London where, currently, Xfm has a 79 per cent 15 to 34 year old and 73 per cent ABC1 listenership, supports this claim.

Give examples of the proposed station playlist or programme content

Xfm Manchester will cater for this passion for alternative music by playing only alternative music, and the older music that has influenced alternative music. Our research demonstrates that, in keeping with Mancunians’ openness to diversity, we should not focus on a narrow definition of music such as ‘rock’, but rather supply a broad range of music that represents that alternative attitude, such as indie, modern alternative, pop rock and Britpop. We will therefore ensure that our output always provides a broad range of styles of alternative music, but always on the cutting edge and credible.

Why should Adline readers vote for your bid?

Xfm Manchester provides the most natural fit with the gap in the radio marketing in the city. Our research findings show that:

ï there is a gap in current radio offerings for a service targeting 15 to 34 year olds, with a bias towards males;

ï the most attractive music genre to this demographic is alternative;

ï those who listened to our RSL version of Xfm in Manchester liked what they heard and believed that it provided choice, both among commercial services and against the BBC;

ï Capital Radio plc, with Xfm in London, has an unparalleled track record in successfully delivering this type of format to a local audience, and we propose to do the same in Manchester specifically tailored to the city’s needs.

Manchester’s Kerrang 97.7

Our application for a new licence to introduce the highly popular Kerrang! radio service into Manchester seeks to add a new dimension to the commercial radio network and greatly extend listener choice in one of the UK’s major media markets. It also represents the ambitious determination of one of Britain’s most dedicated radio companies to introduce sparkling new services in areas where it is already established and popular. Furthermore it supports the firm conviction that the gap between commercial and BBC radio audiences will not be removed by more of the same, but by the creation of more specialised services by operators with the experience, determination, skills and financial strength to launch and maintain them.

Manchester’s Kerrang! 97.7 will operate as part of Emap’s existing Manchester operation, which comprises Key 103 and Magic 1152. The synergies, experience and expertise brought about by sharing these facilities will allow the service to launch with a minimum of delay and be able to deliver greater investment in programming than any ‘stand-alone’ station.

Manchester’s Kerrang! 97.7 will be a specialist rock music service mixing modern and classic rock with relevant news, lifestyle and programming features. The service will be enjoyed by rock fans of all ages, but will have particular appeal to 15 to 24 year olds, and a bias towards males.

The music output will consist of modern rock and classic rock tracks from the last 40 years. Typical modern rock artists will include Elbow, Good Charlotte, Lost Prophets, The Strokes, The White Stripes, Green Day and Franz Ferdinand. Typical classic rock artists will include David Bowie, Oasis, Guns ‘n’ Roses and Jimi Hendrix.

The format for Manchester’s Kerrang! 97.7 will draw on the knowledge and experience gained from the launch of Kerrang! 105.2, in Birmingham. This station achieved a weekly reach of over 250,000 in its first survey and almost 300,000 in its second. The station, which is not yet a year old, has enjoyed both critical and commercial success by combining a strong sense of localness, a unique music format and a no-nonsense real dialogue with its listeners.

Manchester’s Kerrang! 97.7 will be authentic, local and inclusive. The service will provide extensive local programming specifically designed for this market. Emphasis will be placed on the modern rock sub-genre indie, which enjoys significant popularity in Manchester. Programming will include live acoustic sessions, interviews, rock documentaries from current and classic artists and music from unsigned local talent.

Even rock fans do not live by rock alone, and the station’s speech output will reflect the diversity of this great city. Kerrang! will deliver a full service to its community and provide the target audience with relevant local news and information. Speech elements will also include documentaries and interviews with local artists, extensive gig guides, music reviews, comedy, traffic and relevant sport. Issues that affect the general population of the area also affect our target audience, in some cases more so. Alcohol and drug abuse, homelessness and street and gun-related crimes are key issues. Our social action programming will broadcast information and advice on dealing with these and other issues designed specifically for our target audience, primarily through our late night programming. This news and speech output will, in the main, be produced and presented by a dedicated Kerrang! team who will form part of Piccadilly Radio’s award-winning news team ,who have 30 years’ experience of news gathering in the area.


Ali Family, is heading our YAS FM (Young Asian Sound) bid

Brothers have 15 years of Local Greater MANCHESTER radio experiences for from Local People Living in the Manchester Multicultural communities.

Shujat Ali, Chairman CEO

Shafat Ali, Managing Director

Sirfraz Ali, Project Manager (station manager)

Born in and Lived in Greater Manchester the True Locals for ethnic bid working Radio experiences in the area for 14years.

Listeners’ choice and Variety Advertiser choices and variety for local messages Local way.

Connecting with people integrating cultural events entertainment and music all on one stage in the City.

Vote with Local confidence, not London company pretending they are Local Rochdale or Manchester people.

97.7 The City

Please name the individuals leading the bid

Felicity Goodey CBE – former BBC broadcaster turned businesswoman. Simon Cole – Simon is chief executive of UBC Media Group plc. Brian Child – now a business and marketing consultant, Brian was formerly CEO of McCann Erickson Manchester. Jim Moir – Jim, a television and radio broadcasting consultant, was head of BBC Radio 2 from 1996 to 2003. Marlen Roberts – Marlen is managing director of Newsco Insider Ltd. Andrew Stokes – Andrew joined Marketing Manchester in 1999. In November 2001, he was promoted to chief executive. Phil Tarimo – Phil resides in the heart of Manchester’s business community as regional managing director, North of England Corporate & Structured Finance, The Royal Bank of Scotland plc.

What experience do they bring to the campaign?

Collectively the team brings unrivalled experience of the radio sector alongside a fundamental grasp of Manchester, first rate business and influencer contacts, solid business expertise and – as they all sit in the target age group for 97.7 The City – a real understanding of audience desires and expectations.

What will your bid offer to listeners that competing bids, and existing stations, can’t?

Looking at the commercial radio landscape across Manchester, it is clear the 35+ age group is simply not being served. For this age group – according to Rajar figures and research undertaken by Celador – BBC Radio 2 dominates. This demonstrates a major failing in the existing commercial market.

Current stations that aim to appeal to this audience focus primarily on music content with news and speech a much lower priority. Local news and information relevant to an older but modern and intelligent audience is virtually non-existent. 97.7 The City will provide a much-needed alternative.

What will your bid offer to advertisers that competing bids, and existing stations, can’t?

Our research has already told us that 70 per cent of the population would listen, which rises to 75 per cent among the 40 to 60 age group. 29 per cent of regular listeners to BBC Radio 2 said they would stop listening, or listen less, to accommodate 97.7 The City and to add more audience share to the commercial radio market; 31 per cent of regular listeners to BBC and commercial stations said they will listen to more radio.

Our research has also shown that 97.7 The City’s potential audience is more tolerant of radio advertising than the population as a whole, having been brought up in a time of commercial radio dominance.

Give examples of the proposed station playlist or programme content

97.7 The City’s music identity has been created to provide a real alternative to current commercial radio offerings. The playlist will offer a softer, more sophisticated modern sound, while still broad in appeal in order to maximise the audience.

Our news content will also be unique due to an exclusive deal struck with Granada TV’s news team. This relationship will allow 97.7 The City to offer a high-quality and unique service to its audience. The news output will also be far more extensive with seven minutes of news per hour at peak times. We will also have special weekend slots to reflect the mood of Manchester: a Saturday lunchtime comedy hour, and a two-hour Sunday morning conversation slot to get to know the important figures around Manchester.

Why should Adline readers vote for your bid?

We have listened, used our research, brainstormed, cajoled, banged some heads and had some great times with the Manchester community and developed 97.7 The City which we are proud of. We believe it offers Manchester a distinctive music alternative, targeted at an audience currently less than satisfied with existing commercial options, coupled with a serious and quantifiable commitment to meet a high demand for speech content that is, above all, local and relevant to Manchester today.

MANCHESTER 97.7 FM (working title)

Please name the individuals leading the bid

David Goode, Sandy Wilkie, William Lees-Jones and John Locke

What experience do they bring to the campaign?

David Goode (CEO at SRH plc) and Sandy Wilkie (director of new business development at SRH plc) bring 30 years of radio experience to the application.

William Lees-Jones (managing director, JW Lees & Co.) is a prominent business figure in Manchester, running the family business but whose early career involved a close association and dealings with media.

John Locke (marketing manager, The Comedy Store) well known in music and entertainment circles, particularly the comedy circuit, a vital part of this application.

What will your bid offer to listeners that competing bids, and existing stations, can’t?

A unique full-service, one-stop, ‘local’ radio station, servicing the needs of those who work, live and play in Manchester.

What will your bid offer to advertisers that competing bids, and existing stations, can’t?

A Manchester-focused advertising solution.

Give examples of the proposed station playlist or programme content

The playlist will centre on the music of the 70s, 80s, 90s and today, with exceptional hits from the 40s 50s and 60s across the main day part. Lifestyle, entertainment and business topics will also feature across the day as will comedy, which will in fact feature in every hour of every show, and will have a dedicated programme every Friday evening. Evening programming will also cater for urban and R&B.

Why should Adline readers vote for your bid?

Adline readers must examine what already exists in the radio market today – assess what is on offer from the applicants for the new licence, and we trust that they will reach the same conclusion as we have, that there are too many ‘niche’ radio services broadcasting to Manchester and that our bid offers, at last, a full-service, local radio station for Manchester and Mancunians.

97.7 FUN FM!

Please name the individuals leading the bid

Susan Stranks, founder of abracaDABra!; Gregory Watson, GWR Group’s corporate development director; and Nigel Birrell, HIT Entertainment’s executive director.

What experience do they bring to the campaign?

HIT Entertainment (47.5 per cent shareholder) is a specialist children’s programmer and one of the world’s leading children’s entertainment companies, whose portfolio of characters includes Bob the Builderâ„¢, Thomas & Friendsâ„¢ and Barneyâ„¢.

GWR Group (47.5 per cent shareholder), the UK’s largest commercial radio group, has led many ground-breaking radio developments over the past 20 years, including Classic FM.

Susan Stranks has been an advocate of children’s radio for over 20 years. In January 2002, Susan launched abracaDABra!, the world’s first digital radio service for children.

What will your bid offer to listeners that competing bids, and existing stations, can’t?

While other proposed bids seek to target the same age groups as existing commercial radio services, 97.7 FUN FM! will provide a service specifically for pre- and primary school children, their families, teachers and carers. In particular, radio can help with learning and encourages imagination

There is currently no radio station in Manchester that specifically targets this audience. While many children under ten already listen to the radio, they do so as ‘secondary listeners’, to stations which are programmed for adults aged 15 plus. The music and speech of these stations are not suitable or beneficial to children.

What will your bid offer to advertisers that competing bids, and existing stations, can’t?

As with programming, our advertising opportunities are also unique. Commercial messages will target parents and carers, not children, with no adverts for sweets or fizzy drinks. Advertising that is aimed at children will be of an educational basis, such as healthy eating and road safety. In addition, a greater emphasis will be placed on sponsorship and promotions than on spot timing.

The volume of advertising spend targeted at parents and carers is enormous. One only has to review the many parenting magazines to see the breadth of advertisers who wish to reach this audience.

Give examples of the proposed station playlist or programme content

Music will comprise children-friendly popular and soft contemporary music, film music, sing-a-long songs, nursery rhymes and classical. Speech will be centred around fun and discovery for children, and entertainment and information for grown-ups.

Why should Adline readers vote for your bid?

The proposed station is truly unique and promises to offer children under ten, as well as their parents and carers, a distinctive, fun, educational and entertaining service that the people of Manchester can embrace.

FM 97.7 The Storm FM

Please name the individuals leading the bid

Mancunian Group operations director, Steve Orchard, and an executive GWR team. The local advisory board comprises former Communiqué PR chief executive, Paul Carroll; former deputy chief executive of Marketing Manchester, Lis Phelan; and former chairman of Galaxy 102 Radio, Howard Sharrock.

What experience do they bring to the campaign?

As the largest commercial radio operator in the UK, GWR’s team brings unrivalled radio expertise. The local board brings knowledge and understanding of Manchester’s commercial, media and cultural life.

What will your bid offer to listeners that competing bids, and existing stations can’t?

We propose a unique mix of modern and classic rock with 24 hours every week dedicated to specialist music, including local bands and live performance. We will also have 25 per cent speech output dedicated to news, interviews and local rock lifestyle.

What will your bid offer to advertisers that competing bids, and existing stations, can’t?

We are clearly aimed at 15 to 44 year olds, with a male bias, in contrast to many of the existing female-orientated stations. When The Storm was tested with advertisers and agencies it was found to offer the best opportunities for the local and national advertising community.

Give examples of the proposed station playlist or programme content

From Motorhead to Marylin Manson, The Stone Roses to The Strokes, The Rolling Stones to Radiohead: we will feature popular, indie and classic rock that does not currently get local airplay. This, combined with our commitment to emerging talent and local bands, offers a distinctive mix of rock elements. We will be populist not elitist; timeless not trendy.

Why should Adline readers vote for your bid?

We offer the creative and commercial expertise required to be successful and we are in tune with the city’s wider ambitions. We will actively contribute to fulfilling Manchester’s social, cultural and economic potential while delivering a first class and exciting rock music station.

Unity Radio

Please name the individuals leading the bid

Geoff Thompson MBE, head of Youth Charter

Jonathan Green, Dot Communications Northwest

Joe Eskauriatza, Dot Communications Northwest

Tom Clarke, Dot Communications Northwest

What experience do they bring to the campaign?

Geoff Thompson has experience of working with the successful Piccadilly Radio Manchester licence application in the early 90s, before taking his knowledge and skills to develop his role as executive chair of the Youth Charter for Sport, Culture and the Arts.

Tom Clarke is general manager of the UK’s International Music Convention In The City, and has been involved with RSL’s and music for the last nine years in Manchester.

Both Joe Eskauriatza and Jonathan Green have being running as an online radio station since July last year, building on previous experience in the Manchester music scene.

What will your bid offer to listeners that competing bids, and existing stations, can’t?

Through Unity Radio’s extensive research in the target demographic in Manchester it’s clear that Manchester’s young people are not being served by the current local radio stations. They want a station that has a playlist of cutting-edge music, a Manchester-focus in news and sport and an independent ideology that challenges the established stations currently broadcasting.

What will your bid offer to advertisers that competing bids, and existing stations, can’t?

Unity Radio will offer the ear of its listeners, targeted between 13 and 25, programming that they can relate to, can understand and will want to listen to, an association that advertisers will not find in other media outlets.

Give examples of the proposed station playlist or programme content

Unity Radio will offer a programming format of youth-specific music, news, advice and debate defined by the tastes of its target audience, 13 to 25 year olds resident in central Manchester. The music programme will cater to a wide range of musical styles with an emphasis on breaking new talent and sounds. Musical genres on rotation will be a mix of hip hop, garage, reggae, soul, funk and drum & bass.

Why should Adline readers vote for your bid?

Unity Radio, as an independent youth radio station, offers advertisers a socially conscience platform with direct access to Manchester’s youth market. Unity Radio’s social outreach projects (detailed at ) point to a new and different way for ILR to operate, something we hope can be replicated in other cities across the world.

Unity Radio sets a programming schedule that is new and cutting edge in a way other stations can never be.


Industry insights

View all
Add your own content +